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THE CIVIL WAR 1861-1864


If we consider the census records, the period between 1860 and 1910 looks like the “Boom Time” for Cooper County, as the population increased by 5,351, and many new businesses were opened. Yet, the “Boom” did not really start until after the end of the Civil War, and the Reconstruction period was over.       


“The Civil War is a bitter part of the history of both Cooper County and Missouri. Neighbors and even families were divided between North and South.  Missouri was truly a divided Border State. When Missouri was admitted to the Union, as a slave state, it tried to remain neutral and did not want to break up the Union.  But since many of the early residents were from the South, it was natural for them to favor slavery. Central Missouri had already become a very wealthy area due to the rich soil for crops, especially tobacco. This was only possible because the landowners brought their slaves with them to work the land.


We often hear how poorly slaves were treated. And that may be true in some instances. But studies have shown that most slaves were well treated and were considered to be almost members of the owner’s family. The only difference was that they lived apart from owners family and ate their meals from the kitchen. True, their cabins were not something we would want to live in today, and their clothing was basic, but that was over 200 year ago and standards were in many ways were different.


Missouri men fought on both sides of the Civil War. But some, on both sides, seemed to enjoy antagonizing people. It was common for Union soldiers to stop a passerby to demand people pledge their allegiance to the Union. This harassment caused many people to become Southern sympathizers. However the Southern guerrillas were just as bad.

Source: A History of Pilot Grove, Missouri


The two battles and two occupations and the resulting ravages of the Civil War, began with a skirmish on June 17, 1861, (the First Battle of Boonville) and the war would last on and off for four years. Families and farms, both those in Boonville, and the rest of Cooper and surrounding counties, were attacked by the Union Army. 


Bushwhackers, and looters: During the war, farms and homes in Boonville, and in surrounding areas, were looted of all visible food in order to feed the armies on both sides. Valuables, even blankets, and furniture were taken.  Meanness and anger seemed to be everywhere. Homes, barns and crops were burned, leaving the civilians and farmers with nothing. Grain mills and a few churches were also badly damaged or destroyed. In fact, almost all County church activity was disrupted during the War.


One of our members (“Winky” Friedriches) said that when her grandmother heard that the “Yankees“ were coming, they buried all their silver. After the war, they found only a few of pieces that they had buried. Where the rest went, no one knew.


Before the war ended on June 02,1865, three more battles would be fought in the Boonville area.


The devastations of war were eventually experienced by almost everyone in the County and surrounding areas. Many citizens were forced to abandon their homes and farms, while other citizens were robbed or killed. Very few horses were left in the County by the end of the war.



Missouri had already been accepted into the Union as a slave state prior to the war, but there were still very strong, differing opinions on both sides of that decision. Yet, Missouri voted to stay with the Union, although Governor Jackson refused to send troops to fight for the Union. 


It seems that the “key” reason that Boonville was chosen for the early battle was the fact that it was located in the center of the state of Missouri and was on the Missouri River. Being on the river meant that troops, artillery, horses, food and equipment could be quickly and easily moved to the area of battle. Being in the center of the state allowed the Union troops to easily move anywhere they were needed.


Boonville’s Earliest Connections to the Civil War,

Started Long Before the Civil War started

Slavery was complicated.

The Civil War didn’t “just happen.” It was the culmination of many events that took place over many years. Some of those events took place in Missouri and many of the people involved got their professional start in Boonville at that time. To understand what happened and its significance to Missouri, we need to back up to the mid-1790s.

1.     Somewhere around 1795, Mr. and Mrs. Whiteside’s and their slave girl “Winny” moved from Carolina to Illinois, which at that time was part of the 1789 Northwest Ordinance Territory and “free”. By 1800, the family had moved to Missouri. In 1818, Winny sued for her freedom in the Superior Court of the Missouri Territory. The case wasn’t heard until after Missouri achieved statehood, so it was transferred to the state Circuit Court of St. Louis County. Winnie’s argument was that her residence in the Northwest Territory made her free, and after a jury trial in February 1822, the court ruled in her favor.

Meanwhile… Howard County was created in 1816. With land on both sides of the Missouri River, it physically covered more than 1/3 of the state, including what is now Cooper County. Howard County’s first Circuit Court convened in Boonville on July 8 of that year and one of the four attorneys who attended that first term was Edward Bates. Bates  would  later play a much larger role than a county lawyer.

As the population grew on both sides of the river, people asked that Howard be made into two counties. In December 1818, all of Howard County south of the Missouri River became Cooper County. Boonville was the location for the new County’s first Circuit Court which began on March 1, 1819. Over the next two years, 14 lawyers were enrolled to practice in Cooper County, three of whom were George Tompkins, John F. Ryland, and Hamilton R. Gamble. Each of these three men would one day sit on the Missouri Supreme Court and make decisions that would reach far beyond the boundaries of the state.

           2.     Back to “Winny” … Missouri was admitted as a slave state in 1821. In 1824, George Tompkins was appointed to Missouri’s Supreme Court.                 Slavery was a major issue in those days and many cases came before the state’s Highest Court, including “Winny” v. Whiteside’s. Mrs. Whiteside,             now a widow, and “Winnie’s sole owner, chose to appeal the lower court’s decision and took her case to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Three judges sat on the Supreme Court at that time and they were Mathias McGirk, George Tompkins, and Rufus Pettibone. In a 2-1 decision, the state’s Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court and it was this decision that set the precedent “once free, always free.”

Justice Tompkins wrote in his majority opinion, “We are clearly of the opinion that if, by a residence in Illinois, the plaintiff (Mrs. Whiteside’s) lost her right to the property in the defendant, (Winny), and that right was not revived by a removal of the parties to Missouri.” (McGirk concurred and Pettibone voted in the minority)

Source: Elizabeth Davis, "Historically Yours"


Boonville, central Missouri’s oldest city, is more than a small city in the middle of Missouri. It is home to a great deal of our state’s historic past.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Americans headed west, looking for adventure and new opportunities. Boonville, was settled in 1810 by Hannah Cole and her nine children, along with her brother-in-law’s family. All was peaceful for about two years until the once friendly Sac and Fox Indians roaming the area became hostile, around 1812. Their displeasure with the new settlers was encouraged by the British who pointed out that the Indians were losing their hunting grounds as more settlers arrived. The British encouraged the uprising by suggesting that if the Indians fought against the settlers, and the British won the War of 1812, the British would return the hunting ground to the Indians. (This is the same War of 1812 where the British set fire to the US Capitol in Washington D.C.)

For protection, the Coles and the other families moved to the forts north of the river. By 1814, they were back in Boonville. The Cole’s cabin was in a great location and had access to fresh water, so the family built a fort around it. Soon other settlers followed and built their houses in and around the Cole’s fort.

Howard County, which covered about one-third of what would become Missouri, was organized January 23, 1816, and Hannah Cole’s fort in Boonville was the site of the first county court in July of that year.

Asa Morgan and Charles Lucas platted Boonville in 1817. By 1818, Howard County, south of the Missouri River, had grown sufficiently to allow for the forming of another county. Thus, Cooper County was born, and Boonville became its county seat until a permanent seat could be determined. When Morgan and Lucas gave Boonville 50 acres on which to build a county courthouse, the deal was sealed. Boonville became the permanent county seat of Cooper County.

In 1818, Missouri made its first request for statehood. Rather than break the balance of power over the issue of slavery, Congress delayed Missouri statehood for three years. President James Monroe didn’t sign the Act making Missouri the 24th state of the Union until August 10, 1821.


Source: Elizabeth Davis, "Historically Yours"


Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state. And after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Winny v. Whiteside, the precedent was set: “Once free, always free.”

In 1834, another slave, named Rachel, sued for her freedom in Rachel v. Walker. Rachel had been owned by an army officer and, in the course of his military assignments, she had lived in what is now Minnesota and Michigan, both of which were free territories. Back in St. Louis, she was sold to Walker. Rachel sued on the grounds of “once free, always free,” but this time the court ruled differently. It was the court’s opinion that the officer had no choice on where he would live, so Rachel had no grounds to ask for her freedom.

Rachel’s attorney immediately appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. Two years later the original ruling of the lower court was overturned. The Court’s 1836 decision set another precedent: “If an officer of the United States Army takes a slave to a territory where slavery is prohibited, he forfeits his property.” This opinion was penned by Justice Mathias McGirk with George Tompkins concurring. Robert Wash was the minority vote.

These are the precedents that were used in at least 300 19th-century freedom suits which were found among St. Louis Circuit Court records in the 1990s. Both precedents were set by Mathias McGirk and former Boonville resident George Tompkins.

Ten years after Rachel v. Walker, yet another slave and his family sued for their freedom based on “once free, always free.” This time the case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Many books have been written about Dred Scott’s eleven-year battle for freedom and here, too, lie a few threads to Boonville.

It started in 1846 after Scott’s failed attempt to buy his and his family’s freedom from Dr. Emerson. Just like Winny, Rachel, and dozens of other slaves since 1824, Scott and his wife filed “freedom suits.” After a series of trials, retrials and other delays, the Scotts finally won their freedom in January 1850.

Unfortunately, their freedom was short-lived because Mrs. Emerson, the doctor’s widow, appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and none of the previous judges were still on the bench. They had all been replaced by William Napton, James H. Birch, and John F. Ryland. Ryland was the second lawyer from Boonville to reach the Missouri Supreme Court. Napton and Birch were strong pro-slavery advocates and Ryland, whose feelings weren’t as strong, still leaned toward slavery. The case was scheduled to be heard in March 1850, but due to an overloaded docket, the case was postponed until October. According to one historian, the justices had made a decision and it was unanimous, but their opinion was never written. Napton was supposed to have written it, but he postponed it because he was waiting for a particular legal book to arrive from the capital. Before he received it, however, the law changed. Beginning August 1851, judges on the Missouri Supreme Court had to be elected by the people.

Birch and Napton were not elected to stay on the court, but Ryland was. The two new members of the Court were William Scott and Hamilton Gamble. Gamble was Boonville’s third lawyer to attain a seat on the Missouri Supreme Court.

Missouri entered the Union as a slave state in 1821, but the Missouri Supreme Court ruled “once free, always free” in the case of Winny v. Whiteside in 1824. Ten years later the state’s Supreme Court extended that precedent to include military personnel.

3.     When finally, the Dred Scott case came before the Missouri Supreme Court, the players and the rules had changed. On March 22, 1852, in another 2-1 decision, William Scott and John Ryland struck down 28 years of Missouri precedents when they overturned Dred Scott’s victory. William Scott wrote, “Times now are not as they were, when the former decisions of this subject were made.” One historian of the day remarked, “He might just as well have said their decision was strictly political.”

Hamilton Gamble wrote in his dissent: “Times may have changed, public feelings may have changed, but principles have not and do not change, and in my judgement, there can be no safe basis for judicial decisions, but in those principles which are immutable.”

The Scotts were remanded to slavery, Mrs. Emerson remarried and moved to Massachusetts, and ownership of the Scott family was transferred to Mrs. Emerson’s brother John F. A. Sanford of New York.

Dred Scott appealed his case to the US Supreme Court in 1854. It was heard in 1856, but the decision wasn’t handed down until March 6, 1856, two days after President James Buchanan was sworn into office.

Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote for the 7-2 majority. To paraphrase Taney’s two-hour reading of the decision: “African Americans are not, and can never be, citizens, therefore, they have no rights to sue for their freedom. And Congress has no power to regulate slavery in new territories.” Taney, in an attempt to settle the issue slavery once and for all, had moved the country even closer to war.

In 1860, 22 men fought for the Presidential nomination. Edward Bates, Boonville’s first attorney with a connection to the Civil War, lost the Republication nomination to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861 and named Bates US Attorney General the following day.

Hamilton Gamble, who had resigned from Missouri’s Supreme Court in 1855 due to failing health, had moved to Pennsylvania in 1858. After the legally elected state officials were run out of Jefferson City, the Union put Missouri under martial law and asked Gamble to return to Missouri as its Provisional Governor.


Source: Elizabeth Davis, "Historically Yours"


August 30, 1861

John C. Fremont, on August 30, 1861, declared martial law in Missouri and emancipated all the slaves in the state. Unfortunately for Fremont, this was done without the knowledge or consent of President Lincoln.

John Charles Fremont (1813 - 1890) was born in Savannah, Georgia, on January 21, 1813. He attended Charleston College, taught mathematics, and his legendary trailblazing skills earned him the nickname "Pathfinder." In 1838, he joined the Army Engineers Corps as a 2nd lieutenant.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Fremont was promoted to Major General and assigned head of the Department of the West based in St. Louis. Shortly after the battle of Wilson's Creek, in an attempt to gain a political advantage, he began overstepping his authority. On August 30, 1861, he proclaimed martial law in Missouri: active secessionists were arrested, their property confiscated; slaves were emancipated; and newspapers suspected of disloyalty were shut down.

When news of Fremont's actions reached Washington, the President was not pleased. Lincoln did not want to link slavery to the war yet, because he feared it would give slave owners in the border states reason to join forces with the Confederacy. He requested Fremont withdraw or modify the proclamation. Fremont flatly refused both suggestions. Instead, he sent his wife, who happened to be the daughter of former Senate leader Thomas Hart Benton, to Washington to talk to Lincoln.

Fremont's blatant refusal, along with the arrival of his wife, angered the President, and Lincoln felt he had no other choice. On September 11, 1861, Lincoln revoked the proclamation as unauthorized and premature; on November 2, 1861, Fremont was also relieved of command.


FREEDOM: At the end of the war, the Constitution still did not give the President the authority to abolish slavery. Even the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was not effective because it was ignored by the Confederacy and the slaves were not made aware of the change in their status. But Missouri did not offer empty promises. They held a special convention on January 11, 1865 that called for the immediate emancipation of “all enslaved persons in Missouri”.  The United States did not ratify the 13th Amendment, officially freeing the enslaved, until December 6, 1865. Missouri can be proud of the fact that it was the first and only state to abolish slavery before it was passed by federal law.

Source: Adapted from "Historically Yours" by Elizabeth Davis



It has been more than one-hundred-fifty years since the beginning of the American Civil War. While neither side was wholly right, both fought and died for what they believed in. Some Americans think we should just forget about that war altogether and move on. Others feel we should remember it, study it, and learn from it.

Which side is which, you ask? Is it the North who wants to remember, or the South? Unless you answered “Both,” you would be wrong.  Two such groups are the Daughters of Union Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. These groups work hard to remember the past and the part their ancestors played in fighting for their beliefs. While both are national organizations, they each have smaller local groups.

It has been asked, “What’s in a name?” For the DUV and the UDC, names are important reminders of the past.


The Daughters of Union Veterans have five local groups, called Tents, in the state of Missouri.

They are:

 Julia Grant in St. Louis,

Charlotte Harrison Boone in Kahoka,

Ann Hawkins Gentry in Columbia,

Mary Whitney Phelps in Springfield, and

Josephine Garlock Morrow in Macon.


The United Daughters of the Confederacy have twelve local Chapters across the state.

They are:
Boonville; Robert E. Lee 1567

Branson; Ozarks 2723

Campbell; John L. Patterson 2682

Columbia; John S. Marmaduke 713

Higginsville; Confederate Home 203

Independence; Independence 710

Jefferson City; Winnie Davis 628

Kansas City; Stonewall Jackson 639

Lexington; Sterling Price 2049

Marshall; Marshall R. E. Lee 552

St. Louis; Matthew Fontaine Maury 1768

Springfield; Springfield 625

These two groups represent hundreds of women across the state who are descendants of veterans from each side of the war, that are actively preserving, remembering, and passing on the history of this great nation.

Adapted from "Historically Yours" by Elizabeth Davis.

There are several Civil War markers in Cooper County. See the What to See in Cooper County for information.

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